What others say: Test results are just the shock we need

We like to say in the United States that we value education, but we seldom walk the walk to go with all that talk. Indeed, when the budget ax falls at the state or federal level, it’s not unusual to find a few kindergartners fearfully huddled around the chopping block, jumping with every whack.

Is that too graphic an image? Perhaps, but sometimes, it takes a little shock to get folks moving in the right direction.

That’s exactly the message we should glean from the recent release of the results from the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment. In the global exam given to about half a million 15-year-olds in 65 nations and educational systems, teens from Asia dominated while American students showed little improvement from 2009 and failed to reach the top 20 in math, science or reading ...

Of course, news of the results has prompted a flurry of claims that we are falling behind the rest of the world. So how do we correct our course?

“We must invest in early education, raise academic standards, make college affordable and do more to recruit and retain top-notch educators,” U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in response to the results.

Yes, all of that is probably true, but here we are again: That’s the worst kind of talk ... platitudes. There’s not even a hint of walk in that response.

So looking elsewhere — the world of academia, for instance — there are plenty more words. Solomon Friedberg, a professor of mathematics and chairman of the math department at Boston College, called the test results “appalling” in a recent opinion piece he wrote for The Los Angeles Times. Specifically, Friedberg said the key to helping our nation’s educational system advance lies in three distinct areas — textbooks, teachers and testing. ...

Finally, Friedberg points out if we are going to be teaching to tests, then we had better make sure they are good tests. Specifically, they should measure “procedural fluency and deeper understanding.”

Much of what Friedberg outlines could begin happening soon as Common Core Standards start rolling out in most states in the nation, including Louisiana. Common Core, after all, is about raising the bar for our kids, for our nation, for our future.

That’s one action, we as Americans must demand. Indeed, it is just one of the many changes we must put in place to move beyond the stagnation.

— The News-Star, Monroe, La,

Dec. 16

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